(ONE)+ = (YOU + ME) LOVE
Momentum in manufacturing happens if the marketing "stars" align and the bullwhip effect has been tamed.
If you work in supply chain management or recall your MBA days, maybe you remember the Near Beer study? Forio.com provides not only a wonderful explanation of the conundrum framed by the study but also offers a nice (but frustrating) simulation game.
For those folks unfamiliar with bullwhipping, imagine the complexities of obtaining the raw materials for a jewelry manufacturing process, client backlogs from demand, wholesaler management and inventory distribution, and retail sales. Now, imagine that the upsurge in demand keeps growing and forces the manufacturer to "catch up" as work increases by two and three-fold. What a whipping effect!
I recall when Saybrook professor Doug Walton introduced the "bullwhip" effect to my doctoral systems class as if it were yesterday. The game of "catching up" is a systems theory game germane to proving why organizational complexity is indeed a reality to any organization.
On Monday evening, I returned from facilitating the company retreat for Alex and Ani, a business that produces energy jewelry. This inaugural event had more than touches of humanistic leadership, cultural intelligence lessons, and collaborative teaming touches. It embedded the courage to create and self-express in art workshops, "appreciation circles," and film screenings. The positive-feeling tone was set and the shift towards interdependence was clear and it's still fresh in my mind.
In a line of business such as jewelry-making, the bullwhip effect can promote confusion and contention in organizational life ultimately leading to an emotional bullwhipping too. Emotions can run lean before overflowing as the amount of work varies, which can certainly influence organizational productivity.
In The Power of Framing, Gail Fairhurst discussed how "emotional contagions," or "contagious emotions," can create toxic work worlds. On the flip side, by framing or re-framing events with positive language, we can create a workplaces filled with folks exemplifying not only what positive emotions can sound like, but what they also feel like in organizational life.
A rapidly growing company, Alex and Ani sought to create an integrated, humanistic retreat that tickled the team and froze leaders into learning moments critical to sustaining positivity for its people. The intended lesson was to be anchored in teaching and ensuring collaborative cultures of productivity. From my perspective, it was not just seen, it was actually felt.
So what do the bullwhip effect and the retreat have in common? They both influence Alex and Ani's people. You see, without teaching and retreating with humanistic flair, systems theories and applications can explain away outcomes and dynamics, but little love can be applied. Humanistic foundations do, after all, look to the “human side of the endeavor,” as Douglas McGregor once said.
If a retreat or leadership team is to apply humanistic themes in unlikely places, like traditional manufacturing in a New England state, boldness is a required ingredient. At the Alex and Ani retreat the theme was ONE+ and, inspired by my growing friendship with Chip Conley, we opted to express this theme in an equation:
(ONE)+ = (YOU + ME) LOVE
The folks inside this work dwelling place know that to be truly effective, they must all move from a mindset of "me first" to one that is "(YOU + ME)" oriented in order to create a space for learning as well as leading opportunities to increasingly natural collaboration. When I was working with Elizabeth Wingate, Alex and Ani's chief operating officer, we were struck by the notion of creating a charm to memorialize the event and serve as a significant symbol and enduring artifact. With the blessing and engagement of Alex and Ani founder Carolyn Raphaelian, John from the company's design team converted our vision to the charm pictured in this post.
Not every company leads a "charmed life," like the folks at Alex and Ani, nor does every company necessarily have a manufacturing facility to creatively engage team members when launching retreat-like events. What every organization does have, however, is creativity, and courage.
Without creativity, courage, collaboration, and cultural consciousness as key retreat themes, the rising production demands in this line of business could trip up these good folks. You see, life is complicated enough without manufacturing complexities. We live in a hypercompetitive world rough with pitfalls. By focusing on the power of the collective, the mission of loving one another along the way and honoring each conversation can happen. After all, those "humans" that create the positive charges inside the organization actually infuse the supply chain indirectly so that their mission can be actualized.
My charm is not only a "been there-done that" artifact. It will undoubtedly serve as a reminder that it takes effort and focus at times to ensure ONE+ is lived out in daily practices.